© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World


by Richard Wilbur

Spirits and Angels

Symbol Analysis

In this poem, we float around outside the body, hang out with some angels, and in general enjoy a strange, spiritual realm in the time just before waking. Sounds fun, right? But it's more than just a good time. Wilbur uses the powerful spiritual symbolism to remind us on the one hand of the idyllic place that exists beyond our world, but also, and more importantly, to remind us of the beauty that's right in front of us in our own flawed, human world.

  • Line 2: A twofer. The soul wakes up and separates from the body, as if it's off in its own spiritual world. Also, Wilbur uses "spirited," meaning energized from sleep, to get us thinking about the spiritual zone right at the beginning of the poem. 
  • Line 3: This is the soul without the human form. As of this point in the poem, it's only occupying the spiritual world, totally bodiless. It's just hangin' out.
  • Line 6: Instead of looking outside the window and seeing the milkman and storefronts opening, we're getting a glimpse of angels. Now that's a good morning.
  • Line 8: "But truly they are there." Here is the first instance where Wilbur insists that, though we can't see the angels or properly identify them, they nevertheless exist among us, try as we might to deny it.
  • Line 9: One of the biggest perks of being an angel or spirit has to be the power of flight. Here they rise like the wind. 
  • Line 10: "Halcyon" reminds us of an ideal place, a utopia, a place unlike the imperfect world we live in. Angels, not humans, are capable of feeling what that might be like. It's all good where these guys hang.
  • Line 11: Wilbur uses the phrase "impersonal breathing" to create further distance between "us" and "them." The angels aren't human, he reminds us; nothing they do can be "personal." He is asking us to examine the literal root of the word. 
  • Line 12: Saying that the angels are flying accomplishes the same thing as "impersonal." It's a reminder of what they can do that we cannot. We're still in a world without people at this point in the poem.
  • Line 13: They're everywhere! And have the power to be anywhere. Another thing that separates them from us. 
  • Line 16-17: The soul is capable of seeing into the future. We have gut feelings and hunches, but this seems more specific than that. 
  • Line 22: Heaven is kind of the major hot spot for all things spiritual. And the latest dance craze, apparently.
  • Line 26: Finally, we see the coming together of the spiritual and the physical. 
  • Line 33-35: Nuns, like priests, are the go-betweens, or guides, between humans and the spiritual. Here, the soul wishes for them the ability to float, which up until now has been reserved only for souls and angels.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...